Johannesburg: The gateway to South Africa

The cosmopolitan city of Johannesburg, known as Jo’burg or Jozi to the locals, is home to more than four million South Africans and provides a fantastic base for holidays to South Africa.

Johannesburg was founded by gold prospectors in the 19th century and ever since its fortunes have prospered to become the bustling economic hub of South Africa. With its mix of places to see and things to do, there is something for everyone whether your budget is big or small.

A great starting point is Carlton Panorama, where you will witness fantastic views of this lively city from the 50th floor of the tallest building in the Rainbow Nation.

If you want to learn about Johannesburg’s and South Africa’s history and culture, there are plenty of museums and galleries to visit. The thought-provoking and inspiring Apartheid Museum tells the story of South Africa’s chequered past, and is a must-see for many visitors. Museum Africa also paints an insightful history of Johannesburg and will give you a fantastic introduction to the country. The Johannesburg Art Gallery is just one of the many galleries across the city where you can find both international and authentic African artwork.

Constitution Hill is a fascinating insight into 19th century South Africa. Built in 1892 as a prison for foreigners, it became a fort after the failed Jameson Raid and then a prison again in the 20th century, holding those opposed to apartheid, including Nelson Mandela. It is now a museum and the Constitutional Court.

A day trip to Soweto is a captivating way to learn more about South Africa’s culture. A black township under apartheid, it is now a vibrant place with popular attractions such as Nelson Mandela’s former house, the Hector Petersen memorial and Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was written.

South Africa holidays offer visitors the chance to get up close and personal with some local wildlife too. At Croc City Crocodile Farm you can even hold these baby reptiles, while Elephant City offers you the chance to see these great creatures’ just metres away. At Johannesburg’s Botanical Gardens, beautiful displays and terraces give you a chance to witness local plant life, and enjoy the peace and quiet away from the busy city.

If you enjoy shopping then there are plenty of places to indulge. Away from the large Rosebank and Eastgate Malls there are lots of places to pick up interesting holiday souvenirs. At the Crafters Market, you can obtain traditional African crafts and curios – many of which make great presents and keepsakes. If you enjoy a bargain pay a visit to Hillfox Market, where there are great reductions to be found, with many items half the price you might expect elsewhere. Oriental Plaza is home to many Indian-owned stores where you can pick up most things from food and spices to cheap clothing and watches.

If you want to escape from Johannesburg for a few days and explore more of South Africa, it is well situated for a trip to the Kruger National Park. Kruger is one of the world’s oldest and largest national parks and a safari to see the Big Five Game including the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino and leopard, is many people’s idea of a trip of a lifetime. Take a tour with a local guide and you’ll be guaranteed to remember this experience forever.